Love, Hope, and Faith Avenues working together.
By Linda Sitterley, Pastor Junction City, Oregon
Our planning for Easter began before Christmas. In fact, it began the night of our annual Halloween Trunk R Treat, as you will soon see.
As all events go, even during the current activity you are planning the next one and how you can make things go more smoothly, working out the kinks that inevitably come along. From the Love Avenue perspective, which is undoubtably the most labor intensive, that involves working out what is the best use of time, manpower and the most effective ways to reaching the community. What will be the most visible, relevant, and impactful?
For 2023, we made the decision to move our Trunk R Treat to the Saturday before Halloween, rather than holding the event on the actual night. Marveling at how successful we were in attracting children (in costume), we decided we would make the same move this year for our annual Easter Egg Hunt – having the event the Saturday before Easter. So now to prepare.
As with all our events, the congregation is aware of the importance of Easter as an outreach event. The three Avenue champions and I began the process of letting folks know just how close to Easter we are, even pre-Christmas. Always looking ahead to the next thing as they say.
The Love Avenue champion shared with his team the ideas that were suggested to him. He was encouraged to start an Easter planning committee and begin to zero in on which direction to go. As already stated, the first decision was not to do a community egg hunt on Easter, but to plan our activity for the day before. From there, many possibilities came into play.
The idea to do a Bunny Hop, following the pattern of our Trunk R Treat, was initially met with both skepticism and optimism. That had to be talked through to make sure a majority of the leadership was on board. But now, plans are moving ahead with the Hop. As this is our first attempt, and I think the only event of this nature in our extended community, we are excited to see how it will be received. The most important thing, however, is that we have the freedom to plan something on a day that more of our “working folk” can participate in. This gives us more opportunity to shine light on our Hope Avenue on Easter Sunday.
Getting more people involved is always a challenge, but we are working on finding ways to get people to volunteer without burning out the volunteers that we routinely rely on. It really is the same in any organization. People are all too willing to step aside instead of stepping up. Again, this is where we remind the congregation of our mission and our vision. And we have learned that the personal “ask” is far more successful than the sign-up sheet.
With the strategic move to Saturday, our Hope Avenue champion and her team don’t have the conflict of worrying how the Bunny Hop might detract from the Easter service. Their team is now looking at what the best options are for decorating the sanctuary, what the flow of the service will be, and what fellowship will look like after service. They are still deciding on the best use of the time and what the primary needs are. There are quite a few members who attend the local Community Sunrise Service as well, since as a congregation, we take part in that service. So, the thought of not making the day too long is a consideration. The consensus from the team is to do a brunch after services and focus on the family and friends that will be there. We might even do a scavenger hunt during that time. These are some of the ideas. But in all these considerations, making the day centered around Jesus is what is always most important.
This is where our Faith Avenue comes into play. Our connect groups will be prompted to look to Easter in their discussion groups. “The Chosen” series will still be an ongoing group, as will our book club. The Faith Avenue champion may want to steer people to other books or films in their journey through the Lenten season.
The Good Friday and Palm Sunday services will also be where the Faith Avenue will play a major role. A discussion is happening to see if there is a way for the Faith Avenue to have more of a role within the construct of the Easter service as well. What that looks like is still in the planning stage.
Marketing, for lack of a better word, will start as soon as things are nailed down. Ads in the local paper and social media, plus our connections with the Chamber of Commerce will be a start. But as always, relational word of mouth invitations will play a major role.
Easter, being early this year, adds more pressure. Getting the congregation on board as quickly as possible is the most important thing at this point. I am already seeing members step up, so I know that we will have a wonderful, meaningful, and spiritual journey as we approach this Easter Sunday, culminating in a joyous shout of “He is risen, He is risen indeed”!